Middle East countries must work as partners to grow: Majid Al Futtaim CEO

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Countries in the Middle East need to work together and “behave as partners and less so as rivals” to secure future economic growth and investment, said Alain Bejjani, CEO of the Dubai-based holding company Majid Al Futtaim Holding Group.

“We have a fragmented reality, we have a number of economies that [are] small, each one individually overly regulated,” he added, speaking on Wednesday on the sidelines of the 2020 World Economic Forum (WEF) in Davos, Switzerland.

To drive more foreign investment to the Middle East, Bejjani said, “We have to turn the region into an attractive investment place.” He believes selective deregulation and regional integration will achieve this goal.

According to Bejjani, the transformation has already begun.

“We have been seeing the role model that Dubai in the UAE has been representing in the past. We’re seeing a fantastic vision in Saudi Arabia that actually came to life, it’s now scaling up and you're going to start to see the positive impact of that,” he said.

Bejjani added that he believes 2020 will be a “milestone year” for the region, pointing in particular to the G20 summit in Saudi Arabia and Expo 2020 in the UAE in particular as of importance. “These are two very important milestones that are great opportunities for us to actually leverage the capabilities and leverage those opportunities in order to drive more growth,” he noted.

Middle Eastern prospects for growth also came under scrutiny on Tuesday during a panel discussion at WEF 2020. Economic growth in the region “is no longer a question of if but when,” the Saudi Arabian Minister of Communications and Information Technology Abdullah al-Swaha said.

The minister added that he is “very bullish on the region” and that it will “return to the days of growth.”

Integrating the global economy has been a key topic of discussion at Davos. US President Donald Trump addressed EU trade war fears at the conference on Wednesday, stating that he expects to have a deal with the supranational body before the US presidential elections in November.